Astrid Bergès-Frisbey in L’autre (Photo: Marignan Films)
L’AUTRE (THE OTHER)
★★½ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Charlotte Dauphin
STARS Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Anouk Grinberg
For all its attendant hype, Tenet isn’t the only 2020 release to tinker with time. For a decidedly more low-key effort about the past, the present, and the future all commingling, there’s L’autre, a French feature in which the silence proves to be almost as deafening as Tenet’s Dolby Digital-enhanced explosions.
Translated as (and titled) The Other for its stateside test run at film festivals — and not to be confused with the 1972 screen adaptation of Thomas Tryon’s classic novel The Other — L’autre appears to be a personal film for debuting writer-director Charlotte Dauphin, as the film is not only dedicated to her father but also concerns itself with a daughter’s close relationship with her dad. As the film opens, Marie (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) is a professional ballerina who’s been devastated by the accidental death of her father (from the off-screen sound of it, his demise involved a car or two). She completely shuts herself off from the rest of the world, with the family home effectively becoming her own mausoleum. Quitting the ballet, she then spends all her time poring over the old journals her dad (Jean-Louis Martinelli) left behind and silently drowning in her memories.
Marie does venture out to meet the last person who saw her father alive, a photographer named Paul (James Thierrée), and they soon become romantically involved. But then another woman enters the scene, and we soon realize that this is Marie in another couple of decades (and now played by Anouk Grinberg). And an older Paul (still played by Thierrée) also appears, making it clear that they’ve built a life together. But it’s also equally clear that Marie has never been completely happy, forever haunted by the specter of her father.
L’autre is an elliptical work, with ample sequences open for interpretation. When Marie spots her father, is she hallucinating that he’s physically there, is she having a dream, is she merely remembering the past, or none of the above? Other scenes find both Maries sharing the same space and even communicating; sometimes it’s the older Marie who’s visiting the time of her younger self, sometimes it’s the reverse. It’s all interesting if not always involving, with many of the scenes seemingly designed to comfort its creator without necessarily offering an in to anyone else. Bergès-Frisbey is excellent and engrossing as the young Marie and Thierrée layers some warmth over his scruffy charm, but almost everything else about the film remains aloof and just out of reach.
Like The Accidental Tourist, Three Colours: Blue, and A Ghost Story, L’autre is a movie about loss, grief, and the challenges of letting go of the past rather than being defined by it. If it doesn’t ever match the emotionalism of the first film, the artistry of the second, or the audacity of the third, it’s nevertheless a haunting — if occasionally halting — meditation in its own right.
(L’autre opened in France earlier this year and is currently playing the U.S. film festival circuit, with plans for further expansion in 2021.)